Saturday, June 25, 2011

Canada Day: Canada by Train III

Happy Canada Day! To highlight how inextricably woven Canada and her railways are, I've quoted sections of an editorial entitled "Can't you hear the whistle blowin'?" by J. Keith Fraser, written for the Dec. 1989/Jan. 1990 Canadian Geographic, during the last year of his tenure as executive director of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. As we all know, railways are geography. Accompanying the passages are photographs I've taken aboard the train and along the line, presented as a tribute to our great, lone land.

"For the first 60 years or so after 1867, the railway was the principal mode of transportation. Beginning as a major instrument of national policy, the magnificent engineering enterprise of the Canadian Pacific Railway was designed to promote the growth and indeed ensure the survival of the young Dominion of Canada. In these aims the railway succeeded. In the two decades following the arrival of the first train at Vancouver, the consequences of a transcontinental railway, in tandem with the telegraph and express services, were felt on immigration, western settlement, and on the movement of the products of agriculture, mining and forestry."

CPR 4-4-0 374 arrived in Vancouver on May 23, 1887 with the first transcontinental train. Pictured (top) on the former Drake Street roundhouse turntable, with piped-in steam, at Expo 86. Royal Hudson 2860 participates in the Parade of Steam on CP's Burrard Inlet trackage days earlier (above) where many products of agriculture, mining and forestry were sent to distant markets. A CP crew 's handcar trailer loaded with track tools and hardware at Sovereign, Saskatchewan:

"The saga of the CPR has been told and retold in our history texts and in popularized accounts. After the impetuous flurry of immigrants settling the Canadian West, virtually all travellers making trips of any appreciable distance went by rail until the highway system evolved in response to the advent of the automobile."

A vestibule view of VIA's westbound Canadian behind three F's joining the Trans-Canada Highway through the narrow mountain pass west of the Spiral Tunnels near Field, British Columbia as the sun sets, in 1985:

"Nevertheless, the pre-eminent influence of the railways on the nation was the carrying of freight, not people."

CP Centuries 4709-4705 hustle an eastbound freight past the Canadian's Skyline dome at dawn, near Mi 48 of the Heron Bay Sub at dawn in 1986:
"Travel on the transcontinental routes offered me a matchless insight into the vastness and variety of Canadian landscapes."

Elevator track leading to the historic but forlorn Shonts elevator, taken from the vestibule aboard eastbound VIA train 4 on the prairie east of Edmonton, Alberta in 1986:

"I remember the long, deep-throated engine whistles of the steam era, my first delightful encounter with Winnipeg goldeye, followed by railway coffee, surpassing strong. I recall our family in Ottawa walking up the street in April 1955 to watch the maiden run of the Canadian, CPR's streamlined, stainless steel passenger train, complete with dome cars."

The tail end of train 2 at rounds the curve at Jackfish, Ontario curve in 1982 taken through a roomette window, and then leaning way out of the vestibule with the setting sun, approaching Toronto:
"As I was writing this page, the government announced an immense cut in passenger rail service: half the routes, half the trains, half the length of VIA Rail's network. The reactions were predictable. We have had a long romance with rail and we have cherished it, even though only about three percent of all intercity trips in Canada were made by train. The building of the CPR was determined by reasons of geography, this massive dismemberment of VIA Rail by economics."

Fraser's editorial was written at a pivotal point in VIA's history, and he goes on to predict future directions for rail transportation in Canada. There is light at the end of the tunnel, er terminal, as the sun's rays illuminate the 250 foot-long Great Hall of Toronto Union Station in 1984. Passengers arrive, buy tickets and await their trains under the provincial flags and Union Jack in the ageless ritual of travelling across Canada's vast expanses.
To further immerse yourself in beaver-lovin', overtaxed and underarmed, unfailingly polite Canadiana along the rails , check out Canada by Train I and Canada by Train II (deux, duh)

Running extra...

Finished listening to Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian. A rollicking tale of voyages aboard HMS Surprise, a hydrographic sailing vessel that is actually a man-o'-war. The terms kedge, larboard and other arcane nautical terms kept coming up from the depths of the book's chapters as the Surprisers travelled to Chile.

Rod Desborough has released a book entitled Grand Old Lady a personal tribute that tells the story of CSS Acadia, a hydrographic survey ship and naval vessel. Moored next to HMCS Sackville in Halifax, both ships can still be visited. Rod and I are both enjoying the benefits of the self-publishing movement, in my case with the release of my new VIA book.

The Man O' War was a Central of Georgia streamlined passenger train. C of G became part of the Southern Railway System in 1963.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Trackside with Family

While writing the author's preface for my newly-published book Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years, there were several people I wanted to thank. Train-affected family members spent time trackside as I was compiling the information I'd later include in my book. This time trackside was a pleasant experience: fresh air, the great outdoors, sometimes waiting hours for a train to appear. Now it's Father's Day - as a father, son, brother, brother-in-law, husband and nephew, I'm recalling each family member I thanked, and picturing the time I spent trackside with them. What did those moments look like?
Pedal-powered platform prowler: My son Andrew is learning to ride his hirail-equipped two-wheeler, pictured here on the north track platform at Kingston station, with ex-UP baggage car 8623 in April, 1994 (above).
My uncle Wilf and late aunt Rosemary spent hours in support of my railfanning in the 1970's and 1980's. This involved driving me to the tracks and dropping me off each morning and picking me up at lunchtime and at the end of the day, as I took in CN and CP operations in the Portage la Prairie, Manitoba area. They loved driving around the yards, following the train that was in town and guessing where and when the next would appear. In October 1980, I was travelling on VIA's Canadian as part of a school trip (above). They met the train at the Third St NW crossing and passed up a care package of snacks to enjoy on the remainder of the trip to Vancouver. They treated me to dinner at some nice restaurants. We're enjoying dinner in the railway-themed Countess of Dufferin restaurant in Winnipeg as I mug for the camera with a stubby bottle:My brother Dave also railfanned together - he was old enough to drive and I wasn't, so he did the driving, including a road trip to Portage in 1979. Based on the consists I noted, we spent literally thousands of hours at the Kingston VIA station and vicinity. We shared quite a few fast-food meals (including Big Macs in those styrofoam boxes) while railfanning. Here we are shooting a grain train pulling out of CN's Winnipeg Symington Yard on the Sprague Subdivision in 1984:My sister-in-law Susan has been to many important railway locations like the Spiral Tunnels, Transcona, Churchill and Bayview Junction. Here she is waiting with us for the westbound CN/IC business train at Rigney Street in Kingston, June 2002:
My sister Allison actually rode trains more than she watched them. Travelling to gigs in various Canadian cities or about to jet off to some international destination, her trips often started or ended on VIA Rail. Waiting for her at the Kingston station was also an opportunity to see more trains. Home for Christmas on December 19, 2003:My mother Marjorie appears in few trackside photos. Content to let the railfans in the family do their thing, she much preferred being under a shady tree to a non-air-conditioned Volkswagen.
My wife Karen still finds herself trackside at times. She's also noticed that if I spot a train while driving, everything else becomes invisible to me: medians, traffic lights, pedestrians, other vehicles...Here she is waiting with my parents as they begin a 1994 VIA journey to Portage - the two of them know how to dress for a cross-Canada train trip, similar to the passengers seen in vintage CN and CP publicity photos.
My kids Andrew and Erika spent much time trackside in their early years - usually well-supplied with Timbits or McNuggets as we awaited the trains. By eighteen months of age, Andrew was already saying key phrases like "another train coming?". Erika was interested in trackside wildlife like butterflies and groundhogs. As we wait trackside at Rigney Street in June 2003, the kids have built no fewer than seven limestone inukshuks they then emulate:Diva railfan: Erika has brought her dolls Sushi and Miss Emily as she poses with a one-hour late VIA train 57 behind 6423-6435 and ten cars in January 1999:
Here she is with her grandfather at Mi 190 Kingston Sub watching some pipe loads on CN train 320 at 1945 hours June 25, 1999. My father Laurence made sure we went on lots of steam fantrips, often visited hobby shops, took lots of train pictures and showed us important stuff such as how to open a Dutch door and spring the trap for the coach vestibule steps. Though slowed by age, he still enjoys daily visits with my mother as they review family photo albums and she reads to him from Trains magazine. Her railway knowledge is increasing exponentially as a result!
Happy Father's Day to Trackside Treasure's readers. Keep making memories and spend time with your families as often as you can. It'll really help keep your life on track. Thanks again to all!
Everyone together in 1999 at the ancestral farm home at Lachute Road Farm, located near the former Carillon & Grenville Railway right-of-way between Lachute and St. Andrew's East, QC.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Then and Now: Portage la Prairie 1980-2010

Recent CN and CP photos taken at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba reminded me of photos I'd taken there decades earlier. Although this post had 1980-2010 in the title, these photos are actually from 1979-2011, and the scenes in each pair of photos differ significantly. The Now photos are the fine work of Winnipeg blogger and railfan and Trackside Treasure blog partner Steve Boyko, whose blog Confessions of a Train Geek is ever-present in my sidebar. Steve graciously agreed to share some of his Confessions photos with me, as I've attempted to link disparate decades.

CN westbounds pass CN's station. Looks like a classic white Ford in the parking lot (above) and VIA's signature signs adorn those green lamp posts, although VIA doesn't necessarily stop here anymore.

Then: 9484-9535-5569-9581 clip through at 40 mph June 18, 1980

Now: CN Dash-9 2525 is trailed by four Drapers; former BC Rail 4610-2434-2416-2429 on April 4, 2010.
CN eastbounds also at the CN station. Skyview bridge is a common feature in both photos.

Then: 1069-1027 (black widow scheme Trains magazine unit) with grain boxcars on August 25, 1979. Note train orders being hooped-up by the operator, and other grain boxcars being loaded at Portage Pool 'B' elevator.

Now: In January 2008, CN train 346, ditch lights blazing with 2533-2233 haul 95 cars eastbound; mixed freight and forest products.

CP eastbounds pass the Portage station.

Then: Working semaphores and agent as elephant-style 5797-5983 haul potash and grain at 0925 June 22, 1982. A few short years before, a wooden platform was in place to serve CP's Canadian. CP's station park and engine track for S-3 6569 are at right.

Now: The CP station, now called the Canadian Pacific Railway Heritage Park & Interpretive Centre, is surrounded by a chain-link fence, as 9700-9663 coast by with a long double-stack train on December 27, 2007.

Westbounds in CP's Portage yard:

Then: Low-multimark 5523 with 108 grain empties - covered hoppers and boxcars on June 21, 1982, taken from the track machine spur.

Now: In June 2011, 9135-6040 are building a grain train. Portage switcher 3021 is locked away in its vandal-proof cage in background.

Taken from the Skyview bridge, VIA trains at the confluence of CN's Rivers and Gladstone Subdivisions.

Then: 1353-1354 lift two cars from Portage Pool 'B' as the Super Continental heads west with 6505-6610-CN 4105 in 1981. The Skyview bridge was always a perfect location to track multiple trains, something Portage still sees. CP grain boxcars at right, and CN outfit cars at left bracket the scene.

Now: Steve writes "On December 27, 2007, VIA train 2, the Canadian, came by at 10:44, 50 minutes late. The consist was VIA 6436-6453, deadhead sleeper Fraser Manor-baggage-coach-8227?-Skyline-car-Skyline-diner Emerald-sleeper Draper Manor-sleeper Butler Manor-sleeper Dawson Manor-observation car Tremblant Park. As it approached me, the Canadian disturbed a group of birds that were feeding on spilled grain between the rails."

Portage is still a hot-spot, even with longer trains, larger motive power, and fewer grain elevators in the background. Thanks for letting me relive some memories with Steve's assistance.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

CN Canadian Forces move to Alberta

CN's Counter Street team track in Kingston was the loading point for Canadian Forces (CF) military vehicles destined Rendez-Vous 87 (RV87) in Wainwright, Alberta. On March 31, 1987, 9570-5031-5440 lifted 61 cars of 1 Canadian Signal Regiment (1 CSR) vehicles west, a little after 8 p.m., caboose 79917 tagging along. Two days earlier, vehicles including deuce-and-a-half MLVW's, GMC 5/4-ton signals trucks and trailers were staged at CFB Kingston, arriving via city streets at the team track, waiting in serpentine strings for loading to take place:

It's a Radio Relay truck, part of the LTACS communication system.
Area level communications between brigade and division headquarters 
along with select other organizations like support battalions. Only 
two dozen of these in the entire Forces. Inside the 
canvas portion are 2 gas generators, antennas 
and other support equipment for the detachment. 
In the pod is the comms gear, coffee pot and 
under the pod are the 2 50ft masts.

Circus-style loading at the single ramp meant that cuts of up to 10 cars were loaded at the ramp and pulled (right track, below) before being replaced with cuts of empty cars (left track, below):
GP-9 4506 was on hand to shuffle cuts of cars. When chocked and chained, the cars were shifted to the siding as Queens, where the train was assembled, with final assembly taking place March 31.
Loaded Trailer-Train flats are pulled down the west leg of the wye at Queens. The trucks already have a good coating of mud on their tires, from driving around the muddy team track loading area. Soon it'll be Alberta mud:
Interestingly, 4506 was the third unit on CN train 318, bringing flat cars to Kingston for CF loading. Fifteen of the empty flat cars derailed spectacularly. Read more about the immediate aftermath and cleanup of the derailment in this post.

Here's more information on RV87:
The aim of RV 87 is to exercise selected regular force formations and units of Mobile Command in a general war setting up to and including Division level and in all phases of war: advance, attack, defence, and withdrawal. The exercise will provide the type of intensity of activities which will allow commanders and trooops of all the combat area to confirm their mastery of basic and collective battle skills. Combat service support units will be stretched to the limit to provide the logistic support and administrative serives required/ RV 87 will be conducted in three phases of training:

Phase One: 12 April - 6 May 87
The first phase will be training conducted progressively up to the brigade group level. It will include the armoured corps cougar gunnery competition, artillery and field engineer training, the use of helicopters and combined training of the infantry, armour, artillery and engineers. During this phase, each major element of the brigade groups will learn to work with the others. This phase is designed to instil confidence and perfect the cohesiveness of each brigade group.

Phase Two: 7 May - 12 May 87
Phase Two will be a Divisional level field training exercise called Exercise BOLD WARRIOR.The aim of this phase of training is to practise defence and attack techniques at Division level. To accomplish this, the two brigade groups (1 Canadian Brigade Group and the Special Service Force) will be grouped together against a controlled enemy based on the Canadian Airborne Regiment. The scenario is that the friendly force is in a defensive line against an aggressor force. The attacking aggressor force will be forced to fall back and regroup; the defenders will then take the initiative, thus exercising both sides in attacking and defending.

Phase Three: 16 May - 5 Jun 87
The final phase, called Exercise PRAIRIE VIPER will be a live-fire exercise. Three selected Battle Groups will each conduct a one-week period of live fire training consisting of a series of progressive exercises from troop/platoon to Battle Group. For this purpose, a Field Firing Centre will be established at CFB Suffield from the period 20 April - 15 June 87. This phase of training will emphasize live firing of all weapons available to a Battle Group, battle procedure, all-arms cooperation, advance and attack drills and control and application of fighter ground attack aircraft.

The Battle Group exercised during Phase Three is composed of the following elements:
1 Battle Group Headquarters (based either on an Infantry Battalion HQ or an Armoured Regiment HQ)
2 Infantry Companies
2 Armoured Squadrons
1 Armoured Recce Troop and/or
1 Infantry Recce Platoon
1 Morter Platoon
1 Armoured Defence Platoon
1 Pioneer Platoon
1 Engineer Field Troop
1 Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge
2 Artillery Batteries and
1 Forward Logistics Group for first line support

Here's some of my modelling of CF movements in HO scale using some Roco Minitanks models, appropriately camouflaged and guarded by an HO scale German shepherd:
Kitbashed 5/4-ton trucks:
and this scratchbuilt HOSMTDV (HO Scale Military Train Defender Vehicle) ready to bring its curiously threatening mix of half-track 50 cal. machine guns, APC turret guns and Sea Sparrow missiles to bear on any security threats along the line. Hell on rails!
Running extra...
Interesting discussion on Yahoogroups this week about the LRC operating outside the Corridor. It happened at least once - the LRC locomotive and coach demo'd with two CN coaches as far west as Winnipeg. Early VIA plans were for the LRC to operate on eastern and western services, which never happened in revenue service. The early poor serviceability of the LRC equipment likely accounted for the equipment historically staying close to Montreal and the east, and the use of service reps known as 'train riders'.
'Bus Rider' was a hit for Winnipeg's Guess Who. The Jets are returning to Winnipeg. Maybe they'll be called the Threshers, more agrarian and Canadian than Thrashers, which is the Georgia state bird - the brown thrasher. Maybe they can com-bine the two.
Don Cherry looked natty last night in a blue blazer designed by Leroy's Neon Products of Hamilton. During Coach's Corner, he asked Ron MacLean at least twice an agitated "WHAT?", and Don was his usual irascible self. Could 'Coach's Corner' also have been a part of VIA's Spadina coachyard in its day?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Visit with a VIAphile

A visit to Kingston's VIA station on a beautiful June day started with my son and me hustling down the stairs, under the tracks and back up to Track 2 (the south track of CN's Kingston Sub). VIA train 61 for Toronto was working off the south track today. The consist of train 61 was 6437-3454-3345-3356-3358-3301. 6437 is one of VIA's F40PH-2's that has been refurbished in the Renaissance scheme. Passenger loads were very respectable on both tracks, as train 44 was due and would soon arrive behind P42DC 915, with five cars.
Jason Shron, president of Rapido Trains Inc., was returning to Toronto as part of his cross-Canada tour. Promoting Rapido's classic CP Canadian consist, Jason had been to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and was heading home before heading out on the road again. And what better way to do so than aboard VIA Rail? We posed in front of 6437 with my new book, Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years. As my son clicked away, we discussed VIA, my book, his tour, marketing and models. The Canadian flag on the station looks like it's mounted on the LRC car:
Jason has been very supportive of my book, and was kind enough to contribute the book's foreword. After a few minutes (the VIA 1 car attendant was able to get through almost one full cigarette, as the train arrived ahead of schedule), it was time to go. As ever, it was great to meet Jason. A copy of my book is already on his desk at Rapido, awaiting his perusal. Be sure to visit Rapido's site and keep up to date on their fine products and Jason's amazing cross-country VIA adventure.